Saw a Takashi Miike picture called The Great Yokai War. "Yokai" is a Japanese term for monsters from folklore, as opposed to the more familiar kaiju. It's a kids' picture, about a young boy from Tokyo sent out to live in the countryside with his older sister and his intermittently senile grandfather. When a vengeful spirit appears, the boy gets caught up in a war between warring groups of yokai and must find his courage to become the "Kirin Rider", the hero who will set everything to rights. It's not a bad picture - nothing deep, but an amusing story. Some of the yokai are really trippy, Japanese folklore can get pretty "out there", apparently.

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What would you describe as "the Marvel formula"?

I've seen a few critics declaim Marvel Films as formulaic, but it's always critics that just hate superhero movies (or, really, popular movies) and when they try to describe said formula it's just a description of the latest film (and doesn't apply to the others).

If there's a formula, I don't really see it -- unless it's to make a good genre film with a well-thought-out story, decent characterization, large doses of humor and great spectacle. The first parts apply to any good movie. What formula gave us both "Dr. Strange" and "Guardians of the Galaxy"? "Thor" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"?

I'm not saying there isn't a formula. Just that I don't see one.



Captain Comics said:

What would you describe as "the Marvel formula"?

I've seen a few critics declaim Marvel Films as formulaic, but it's always critics that just hate superhero movies (or, really, popular movies) and when they try to describe said formula it's just a description of the latest film (and doesn't apply to the others).

If there's a formula, I don't really see it -- unless it's to make a good genre film with a well-thought-out story, decent characterization, large doses of humor and great spectacle. The first parts apply to any good movie. What formula gave us both "Dr. Strange" and "Guardians of the Galaxy"? "Thor" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"?

I'm not saying there isn't a formula. Just that I don't see one.


Yeah I see what you mean. I don’t mean it in a negative sense. I just think that they seem to have developed a system that works in consistently making quality movies. My guess is that there is a very steady hand at the helm (maybe Kevin Feige?) that is making really good decisions before allowing the movies to go forward. So the formula might include things like:

  • Great casting decisions
  • Good judgement in selecting directors
  • An overall quality control when it comes to story approval and plot development
  • A commitment to respecting the source material
  • An understanding of the source material
  • A conservative approach to interpreting the concepts so no one is allowed to go to far afield or get too experimental.
  • Planning ahead how to connect the films and create continuity


As you say, a lot of this stuff is part of any good movie. But most studios can't seem to consistently achieve these qualities across multiple movies. So maybe formula is not quite the right term. It’s just my shorthand way of thinking about it. “System” might be a better word. Kind of like the New England Patriots have a "system" that allows them to constantly switch out parts and still produce a consistently excellent product.

The only drawback I see with Marvel's system/formula/recipe/blueprint is that it doesn’t encourage innovation or experimentation. So we probably won’t see anything hugely influential or groundbreaking in terms of film as an art form.

Also, a mix of humour, heroics and heart, perhaps.

It helps that many of the writers and directors today have grown up with the comics and truly love them.

Richard Willis said:

It helps that many of the writers and directors today have grown up with the comics and truly love them.

That's crucial, and maybe even essential. One key part of the formula is that Marvel movies aren't trying to deconstruct the characters. Marvel movies, unlike DC movies, aren't trying to distance the characters from their roots -- unlike, say, Man of Steel, where they have Superman breaking Zod's neck specifically to show This Is Not Your Father's Superman



Luke Blanchard said:

Also, a mix of humour, heroics and heart, perhaps.


Yes. I think there is definitely an element of lightheartedness that we see across the board in the Marvel movies. And the other studios have taken notice and tried to emulate that with movies like Deadpool and X-Men (with Quicksilver.) Also, I think that levity provides an opening to a broader audience outside of comic fans. It gives them something to relate to. DC's recent movies have been pretty grim on all fronts. Sometimes that works for me when it's well done (Superman vs Batman) and sometimes not so much (Suicide Squad.) But in most cases I think it just adds another layer of impenetrability for non-comics fans. My wife doesn't read comics and doesn't have a ton of interest in the movies. She can usually sit through the Marvel ones but hasn't been able to tolerate much of the DC stuff. I think it's mostly because the Marvel movies are just more fun.

FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969): Possibly in the same continuity as the early ones, but I don’t necessarily want it to be. Hammer’s Frankenstein has always been arrogant and not very likeable, but in this one director Terrance Fisher makes him the rapist of his partner’s fiancé. Distasteful.

HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970): This one features a young Victor Frankenstein (not Peter Cushing), and the monster is played by Dave Prowse. This Frankenstein I could see being a rapist, easily.

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974): Peter Cushing is back, either with a bad perm or wearing a curly wig. Dave Prowse is the monster again, but this time as a hirsute Neanderthal-looking creature. Patrick Troughton has a small part as a graverobber (which he plays to the hilt). This is the last film in the series.

In summation, films one, two and four are the best. Beyond that, you’re on your own. I recommend:

CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)
REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958)
FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967)

How did you watch these movies, Jeff? Are they available on a streaming service?

I have them on either DVD or VHS. I wached them the first time through about 10 years ago as I was collecting them. This was my second time through. The good ones (the three I like best) I have on DVD. the same is true for the Hammer Dracula series: ten years ago, the best ones were available on DVD, the rest on VHS. I'm sure they can be found streaming, too, for those of us (not me) who have joined the 21st century.

They're available on Amazon only Horror of Frankenstein is expensive unless you get the Region 2 disc.

I haven't tried to watch them yet, but all six of the movies mentioned in Jeff's note are apparently available for streaming as entire movies on YouTube.

The best Hammer horror films are those produced prior to 1968, after that the movies got nastier and nastier - see Jeff's comments above regarding Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed - and they lost me with their nihilistic attitude.

Part of the reason Dracula has little to no dialogue in many of the later films is due to Christopher Lee's disdain for the scripts he was given.

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